People attend conferences for many different reasons.  Some come for the content of the lectures; some come to meet and hear well-known speakers; some come to meet and network with others in the industry; some come to see old friends.

Me, I come for all those reasons.  At DevLink last week in Murfreesboro, TN, I experienced all those things and more. 

But I also experienced something new.  I had heard of Open Spaces in the past but had not experienced them.  At DevLink, Open Spaces were promoted heavily as a different way of exchanging ideas.  I was curious and gave it a try.

An Open Space event consists of developers sitting together roughly in a circle in a room and they exchange ideas with one other.  A topic is picked in advance by the group but the conversation is not limited to that topic.  If the conversation drifts from the assigned topic and the group remains engaged, this is perfectly all right.  The important thing is that ideas are exchanged and the group remains passionate about the conversation.

And I heard a great deal of passion at the DevLink Open Spaces that I attended.

During the event, I attended 3 Open Spaces sessions plus the planning session (where topics were picked) and the wrap-up session (where the group reviewed the open spaces of the previous 2 days).  In each session I attended, I heard bright people sharing great ideas.  Sometimes we argued and sometimes we were in violent agreement but I enjoyed it all. 
In a session on Service Oriented Architecture, I argued earnestly that, due to the costs of SOA, support from the top was necessary for SOA to succeed within any organization.  Most of the other loud persons in the group insisted that newer tools such as WCF had lowered the cost of SOA sufficiently that a strong grass roots effort could drive SOA in an organization.  By the end of the session, I think we had all learned something and moved a little toward understanding the others' side.

I did attend a few traditional sessions in which a speaker stands in front of a classroom and delivers a lecture to an audience that is mostly passive.  Richard Campbell and Carl Franklin were two of the speakers at this conference and I have long been a fan of their .Net Rocks podcast, so I made a point to attend a lecture by each of them.  Both were good sessions but they were easily topped by Joe Wirtley who gave an excellent talk on WPF.  It was excellent because it focused on building a business application, rather than the eye candy that clutters so many WPF presentations.

Overall the conference was a great success.  It drained me of energy but it fired me up at the same time.

And I haven't even told you about the 28 hours I spent riding a bus with a few dozen techno-geeks.  Or the flat tire that left us stranded in Carrolton, KY for 3 hours at 2AM.  But that’s another story.

Note: Click here to see more photos from DevLink